Category Archives: nifty

Miscellaneous etcetera

Let’s see… right about now I should be somewhere along Mammoth Mountain, hopefully surviving the lift deboarding.  Really, getting off the lift is the most hazardous part of my snowboarding trips.  I can get down the mountain like a champ.  Sometimes, I can even execute a turn without getting stuck.  I still don’t do jumps or hops, though.  But getting off the lift?  Without falling or crashing into something/someone?  Let’s just say that the thought of the ski lift fills me with dread and worry and more stress than anything else on the mountain.

So, Google tells me that a lot of people find my site looking for “american eskimo dog” or some variation of that phrase.  Strangely, it seems like a lot of people are also looking for advice on shaving their American Eskimo dog.  Either that, or it’s just one person and they keep Googling to see if someone else’s page pops up.  I have never shaved Lexi, but we did shave Cassie last year.  She has very thick fur and the undercoat had gotten very matted – beyond brushing.  So, we took the logical step of shaving her fur so we could, in theory, start over from step one.  Let me just say this, if you are planning to shave your pretty American Eskimo, please understand that it may take the better part of a year for her soft fur to grow back in.  Cassie’s coarse fur has grown back, but her silky undercoat, the part that makes her soft and fluffy, is lagging.  She still looks cute, and we just pet her head a lot, but I do hope the rest of her coat comes back in okay.

People also come here looking for information on Mr. Hummos in Poway.  Trust me, I would love to know more, too.  So, if you get there before me, let me know what you think.  I’m trying to make it over there for food soon, we just haven’t had the time!

There are also some contests I should tell you about.  Swiffer, they of the environmentally-unfriendly yet awesome-at-collecting-dust cloths, is holding a video contest.  It’s called the “Swiffer Break-up Music Video Contest” and the Grand Prize is $15,000.  In conjunction with YouTube, you pick one of 10 “break-up” songs for your video and tell Swiffer how you left your old cleaning products for their neato cool stuff.  Upload the video by January 30, 2008 and then the general public will vote for their favorite clip.

The second thing really isn’t a contest.  If you sign up for the Fiber One newsletter, you can also choose to get a free sample of their new cereal, which is supposed to be high in fiber but low in calories.  Sign up here for the newsletter.

Also, the Deep Chocolate Vitatops are growing on me.  They still don’t fill the chocolate chip cookie craving, but they do make for a pretty good snack at work.  I’ve been trying to eat a small snack before lunch and then in the afternoon so I’m not starving at lunch and when I get home.  So, some fruit and a Vitatop are pretty good, especially since the Vitatop is only 100 calories.  Just make sure you have some hot tea or something to help wash it down.  Not that it tastes bad, but it’s a little dense – much like drinking milk to wash down brownies.  I’m still scared of the Fudgy Peanut Butter ones.  Perhaps I will give it another shot next week.

And, finally, if you are looking for information on Siberian Husky puppies, let me assure you that I don’t think my husky is at all typical.  I think most huskies are more energetic and maybe a little smarter.  Sadie is a little slow to catch on (like when the other two are already wolfing down food in the kitchen) and she seems pretty happy sleeping on the couch, but she’s a really good dog.  She sometimes gets a little too interested in Clair, but a bat to the head gets her to back off (Clair bats, I don’t).  So, when you hear people say that huskies and small non-dog animals don’t mix, it’s something to seriously take into consideration.

Birthdays rock!

Thank you everyone for your happy birthday wishes.  I had a pretty rockin’ birthday dinner at The Linkery with our friends.  It’s good to have a solid core group of friends… everyone should be so lucky.  As always, we ate very well, enjoying sausages and beer and beverages and cake.  And lamb.  I try to check in with the Linkery blog before we eat there to see what’s new.  The menu is always changing, but if you can get down there while they still have lamb I would recommend doing so.  I had the lamb sopes, which were so good, and now I want to try the grilled leg of lamb.  T mentioned it was too bad they ran out of abalone before we got to try it.

After dinner, we came home to a very toasty bed.  Every winter, I take my old electric blanket (which totally does not fit on the queen-sized bed) and plug it in so I don’t freeze while trying to fall asleep.  T is always warm, so it didn’t seem like a problem that the blanket only warmed half the bed (because it only covers half the bed, not because half the wires don’t work).  My half, of course.  It also seemed to do a good job, so why replace it?  Well, because T knows me better than I know myself, he decided a new blanket would be worthwhile.  And, because he is often right, this new blanket puts out more heat, covers the bed so that the whole bed is warm and the edges aren’t cold, and it somehow makes the bed even more snuggly.  We already sleep on top of a feather bed and under a down comforter, so for me to say the bed got more snuggly you know it must be good.

On Saturday, my wonderful friends came out again to go to brunch at the Marine Room in La Jolla.  This is a fancy-schmancy restaurant that is expensive and right on the beach.  In the winter, they hold a few High Tide brunches where you can watch the waves come up to the windows.  Because they only have brunch during the winter high tide season, the brunches fill up pretty quickly.  We were seated at 10:30am, kind of the low end of high tide, but it was still pretty cool seeing the beach right out the window.  The food was very good, too.  I only got one picture of food because, as I’ve mentioned before, once we start eating I get too excited to remember to take more pictures.

MRBrunch

I started with oysters, shrimp, and stone crab claws (the crab claws were the best).  Then I went to the hot foods area to get: bacon, apple sausage, potatoes with carmelized onions, Grand Marnier french toast, bread pudding, cheese blintz, black forest ham quiche, and a mushroom frittata (or maybe it was quiche and the ham one was a frittata?).  It was all good.  The french toast wasn’t very Grand Marnier-y and the bread pudding was just okay.  The egg dishes were so good.  Tasty, light, not overwhelmingly eggy, and each had crispy parts along the edges.  Yum.  My favorite was the cheese blintz.  The filling had some cream cheese in it instead of all ricotta, which made it moist and tasty.  I think it was the best cheese blintz I’ve ever eaten.  There was another station with cheese (the brie was awesome), three kinds of smoke salmon, pate, bread, couscous, and fruit.  And an omelet station.  And desserts.  So much food. 

Considering the view and the quality of food, I think the Marine Room brunch is worth the $32.  We all left quite full, and we were full of good food, so I have no complaints.  There’s no carving station, but that would probably bump the price up by $20, so I’m fine that it’s not there.  It’s not a brunch we would go to every year, but it was fun to experience it, especially with all my friends for my birthday.

Then!  As if that wasn’t enough excitement, we gathered later that night to play Rock Band.  Even though my singing score progressively went down as the night went on, it’s a totally fun game, especially if you get to play the drums.

Sunday we held a little bbq at home to watch the Chargers play.  They didn’t win, but we were still rooting for them a little.  Anyway, we still had a lot of good bbq food, so all was not lost.  T even finished smoking more albacore later and it turned out very nice.  cured, smoked, but still moist. 

What an exhausting birthday weekend!  Now we have to finish the food in the fridge and get packed to go up to Mammoth for a few days.  I hope they get some nice fluffy snow to help cushion all my falls!

Menu for Hope – I’m a winner!

Chez Pim organized and hosted the 4th Menu for Hope, a fundraiser that provides support for the UN World Food Programme.  It’s pretty cool and every year they surpass their goal of raising more money than the previous year.  Can you believe that this year they raised over $91k??

Bloggers and chefs and important-food-people (oh my!) band together to donate prizes of food, books, and experiences for all over the world (really!).  Some are simple, like autographed cookbooks (if I had an autographed cookbook I would be so giddy) or chocolate baskets; others are well coveted (see this Tip Sheet that lists prizes and their respective odds of winning), like a tour of elBulli or dinner at some of the most praised restaurants around the world: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Manresa, and l’Arpège.  There are so many great prizes that you really have to just pick a few and go for it.

Now, donations have closed and winners have been picked.  If you read any sort of food blog (not this one), you’ll hear about the next Menu for Hope when it comes up.  So, why am I telling you about it now?

Because I won something!

I never win drawings, raffles, or contests.  But this year I figured that even if I won nothing, I could feel good about donating to a great program.  So, I gave some money, picked a crazy-odds prize that would be feasible should I win and a few other little ones.  Then, when the Tip Sheet went up and listed some prizes with just a few tickets (awesome odds), I gave some more money and bid for a couple of those.  I thought if I just won something small like a cookbook or chocolate I would be thrilled.  And I would get some yummy nibbles to boot.  I feel like I just won the food lottery, though, because I ended up with the Manresa dinner and tour.

I told T that now we have to go back up to San Fransisco so we can use thise prize.  Manresa is one of those places I would love to visit, but it probably wouldn’t have been a priority since a) it’s quite a drive from SF and b) T isn’t really all that excited about expensive menus, even if the food is an awesome experience.  He likes good food and he has no problem paying more for really good food, but it would have been hard to justify a dinner like Manresa to him.  Perhaps this visit will convince him that it really is worth it?

So, I am totally excited and absolutely looking forward to planning this trip and I will probably be embarassingly giddy when we finally get there.  I’m also a little scared because, what if I’m not food-savvy enough to truly appreciate my meal?  Rest assured, when we do this, I will come back with a full report.

Now, I’m also excited because I get to go to the Fancy Food Show on Sunday.  My friends Cami and Jeff* are going with Jeff’s parents, who run a cake and candy supply business, and when they heard how jealous I was, they asked him mom if she could sign me up, too!  I have awesome friends.  I figure this will be like when my dad goes to CES – so cool.  So Cool!

* Yes, real names.  I figure that the 5 people who read my “blog” probably won’t ever know enough to be able to stalk me or my friends and it’s just easier this way.

Christmas Dinner

I think this was one of the first years we actually stayed home on Christmas.  Just us and the dogs.  It may sound quiet and lonely, but it was actually very nice.  We slept in a little and then made breakfast out of leftover bread from Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse in Santee.  We had gone there for a friend’s birthday, stuffed ourselves silly, then packed a doggy bag with leftover steak and fatty bits and the bread that was in the extra bread basket.  Well, the dogs got a yummy Christmas breakfast with steak and we ended up with some really good french toast.  So, if you go to Pinnacle Peak for dinner, don’t leave the leftover bread – it’s the perfect bread for french toast.

After breakfast, we opened presents, and I have to say that I am well spoiled.  I have a new robe for summer and a cushy soft one for the cold weather, a ride in a hot air balloon, a very cool new picture-hanging level, and other such trinkets.  We also got an automatic soap dispenser, which is not only fun but actually handy.  But my favorite present I’ll tell you about tomorrow.

The weekend before Christmas, I had purchased a small rib roast from Costco (the smallest one they had, actually).  My plan was to cook prime rib and Yorkshire pudding for our Christmas dinner.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to cook, but it’s an expensive endeavor.  It’s not something you test out for the first time for a dinner party and it’s not really in my budget to be able to to a test run and a large roast for a table full of dinner guests.  Anyway, I figured I could afford to do this for our dinner, so I picked a 2-rib roast, which was still pretty big.  Interestingly enough, Alton Brown had just done a Good Eats episode on prime rib (mislabeled in the cable guide as “Eggnog”), so I tracked down his recipe as I had not really been paying attention to the tv.  Both Alton Brown (AB) and Cook’s Illustrated (CI) recommend dry aging the roast in the refrigerator, so I tried it.  I placed the roast on a rack and then on a small baking sheet.  I placed a paper towel over it, to keep it protected from dust and also to wick away extra moisture.  After three days, it didn’t look like it had lost much water, but it did look nice and red and beefy.

 

aged_roast

 Again, AB and CI don’t go big on seasonings, so I just rubbed the roast with some olive oil and then some kosher salt.  Now, AB says to cook the roast at 200ºF, pull it out at 118ºF, rest, then reintroduce it to a 500ºF until the roast reaches 130ºF.  All while cooking under a terra cotta pot.  CI says to pan sear the roast (to get it nice and brown), then just cook it in a 250ºF until it reaches 130ºF.  I compromised between the two methods, roasting at 250ºF until the thermometer measured 130ºF, then I pulled it out and turned the oven to 450ºF (this is also the temperature the Yorkshire puddings bake at).  The roast went back in with the buttered muffin pan (Yorkshire puddings) for 5 minutes, then everything came out, I poured the batter into the pan and in they went.

The roast came out looking (and smelling) wonderful, but very little of the fat had rendered off and there certainly weren’t any pan dripping with which to make a pan sauce.

 

roast_cooked

I used the CI recipe for the Yorkshire puddings (it was on the page after the rib roast recipe), preparing it in advance to let the batter rest.  I got 1 Tb of beef fat for the batter but used butter to grease the muffin pans because the roast hadn’t rendered enough fat.  I wish you could have seen these suckers in the pan because they looked impressive.  They must have been twice as high as the muffin pan, with smears of browned butter here and there.  I pulled them out of the oven after 30 minutes, then poked them with a skewer to try and prevent them from deflating.  It worked a little, but they still ended up less puffy than when they were in the oven.  Still, they looked tasty.

 

popover1
popover2

Now that the roast was nice and rested, we carved the bones away (and nibbled at them), then carved two slices off the roast (which was a little less than half the total roast).  Added to some roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts, it was an impressive looking dinner, even without any au jus.  I was pretty pleased with myself.

 

prime_rib_plate

It was a really good slice of prime rib.  Slow roasted, it was juicy and medium rare.  The edges had a little saltiness to them and the outside fat was beefy and meltingly good.  I certainly wouldn’t mind doing this again for dinner for four.  Of course, the difficult part would be deciding which 2 friends to invite to dinner!  The Yorkshire puddings are quite similar to popovers (and would probably be identical if not the beef fat in them) and were crispy on the tops and custardy in the middle.  Since the recipe made 12, we ate quite a few with dinner (and after) and have also eaten them for breakfast.  Yum.  The next time I make a roast, though, I think I will follow the CI recipe and sear it in a pan before placing it in the oven.  That would definitely render out more of the outside fat.  Aside from that, it was a perfect dinner.  I’d even wager to say my prime rib was better than you would get at most Vegas buffets!

Holiday parties

T just told me his office holiday party is going to be at Anthology, complete with 3-course meal.  If you read how much I enjoyed our last (and only, so far) visit, you’ll know how excited I am for this.  His office party is actually in January, which is a cool concept – since most companies celebrate a non-denominational holiday gathering to be completely fair to everyone (I guess), why not wait until after the December rush when venues are more available and possibly even cheaper?

My holiday party is going to be at Sea World this year, which is also a pretty cool venue and we’re excited for that, too.  I know it’s only October and we haven’t even gotten through Halloween, but I love the Christmas season and I’m glad we’re getting into all this.  Don’t worry, though, I never put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. 

Personally, we kick off the holiday season with a Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner™ the weekend before Thanksgiving.  We’re all so busy once the holidays hit (heck, we have crazy schedule all year long!) that at least we get to see our friends once before New Year’s Eve!  It’s also my excuse to throw a fancy dinner party, which really is fun for me.  Our friends like to throw their Thanksmas Eve™ party (sometime between Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s Eve) and they do a rockin’ job, including game prizes!  Maybe we’ll kick things up a notch and do door prizes this year. 

Are you getting excited for the post-summer season?

Ya gotta see this

matsuri

Over the weekend, T jetted off to Phoenix to spend some time with the guys and I headed to Las Vegas to visit my parents. When I go to Vegas, it’s a weekend filled with eating, more eating, sometimes shopping, and maybe a show. I like going to Whole Foods and DSW Shoe Warehouse because, while we have the same stores in San Diego, the parking lots in Vegas are much less crowded and easier to navigate. We go for dim sum in Chinatown, just about anywhere for dinner (this time it was Bonefish Grill… yum), and usually Bally’s Sterling Brunch on Sunday (this time we went to the Steakhouse at Circus Circus – good food, nice brunch, but it’s no Bally’s). The show we went to see is one I enjoyed almost more than seeing Cirque du Soleil.

My mom took my dad to see a show at Sahara for his birthday. All she knew was that it was a high-energy Japanese show and that there wasn’t much publicity for it. And that tickets were not cheap. However, she enjoyed it so much, she bought tickets so that we could see it when I was visiting.

Matsuri is hard to describe. You have about two dozen twenty-something wacky Japanese kids (mohawks, green hair, pink hair, hyper-energy) whose backgrounds include models, dancers, gymnasts, yo-yo performer, plate spinning, stunt bike, hula hoop wrangler, and other such acts. Combine that with some of the funny and crazy Japanese tv show acts you see here and there (maybe on YouTube) and a lot of dancing and jumping around. For an hour and a half. They’re all fit, they’re all cute, they’re all in sync and then they break into the different acts that are either comedic, acrobatic, visually stunning, or just fun to watch. It’s like Stomp, but more fun. It’s like Cirque du Soleil, but sillier and less artsy, without the symbolic red balloon that floats around with no explanation. My favorite act involved the Japanese “drums” because it was such a creative way to perform and it sounded just as impressive as if they actually had a full drum ensemble.

The small Sahara theater wasn’t full on Saturday night and it looked like a lot of the guests were Japanese tourists (I hear the Las Vegas tickets are much cheaper than seeing the show in Japan) but the show still got a standing ovation at the end. They put so much energy into their performance and they look like they’re having so much fun that you can’t help but have a good time. Sadly, there are no programs or posters to buy, just two wall hangings at the entrance that gives a short bio on each of the performers. I’m hoping that Matsuri is successful enough to move up to a bigger theater that will provide some sort of program (or even a flyer!) to purchase and take home.

If you are going to be in Las Vegas, I highly recommend catching this show. It’s different but wonderful to watch.

Made in America with John Ratzenberger

ratzenberger

The night we girls went to Thee Bungalow, T drove up to Oceanside to have dinner with his buddy, who happens to be the RV driver for John Ratzenberger’s Made in America show on the Travel Channel.  You may also know John Ratzenberger from his various roles on Pixar films – from Toy Story to A Bug’s Life to the latest, Ratatouille.  They call him their good luck charm.  I guess you might also know him from his role as Cliff on Cheers.  But I prefer to know that he plays funny animated characters and also gets to travel in a decked out RV to random places around the US, checking out what people are making, whether it’s something new they thought of or continuing some hundred years old tradition of carving rocking chairs by hand.  That’s just cool stuff.

So, T got to have dinner with Mr. Ratzenberger (and didn’t come home with a picture) and the whole crew.  And he got to see his buddy, which is really the best part.